My Own Advice
Don’t let your highs get too high or your lows too low
On June 30th around 5:00 p.m. Mountain Time, I couldn’t have planned a better start to my Cowboy Christmas campaign. I was coming back third at the Ponoka Stampede, and I had just tied my good buddy RJ (Ryan Jarrett) at the Greeley Stampede for the round lead and high call to the short round.
I had left Bam at Coulee Equine in Olds, Alberta, so I flew back to Canada and picked him up and went to the short round at Ponoka for the next day. I drew a calf I’ve been literally drooling over for the past three weeks. Just chomping at the bit for an opportunity to run her. The stars were aligning.
I know what it’s like getting on a heater this time of year. A couple years ago, I won something like $34,000 during Cowboy Christmas—more than any timed-event guy ever in a single event.
This year, the weather in Ponoka all week had been less than ideal. Short-round Monday was no different. I jumped in with Jake Pratt and Haven Meged. All I had was tack for my horse and a backpack. I was NOT prepared for the weather that day. When we started warming up, the weather came in. Before the calf roping, it started raining. The wind was blowing thirty miles an hour, and the wind chill was 44 degrees. I wasn’t that cold in January at Denver. I couldn’t feel my hands. I was so pissed. I wasn’t focused. I crashed the barrier and was 9.0. I didn’t even come close to getting out.
The setup at Ponoka is like Pendleton—a lane instead of a normal box and barrier. That’s what makes that place so badass! I was devastated. But I had no time to pout. We had to get in the truck and drive all night to Red Lodge, Montana, for the 7:00 a.m. slack the next day.
We pulled in about 3:30 a.m., and I got a few hours of sleep. I had a chance at Red Lodge but got kicked to win decent. Flush that one, too, because we were headed to arguably the biggest one-head rodeo of the year—Cody, Wyoming, around sixty-five miles from Red Lodge—for the 11:00 a.m. slack.
At Cody, I had a rerun, but they turned my calf out in the first run, so my calf hadn’t been roped or tied. After I looked at my calf, I knew I’d have no chance in hell to place on her. Like they say, It is what it is. That’s rodeoing. You can only control what you can control.
We left Cody and struck out for the evening perf at Livingston, Montana, 180 miles away. Along the way, I got to thinking that I pretty much enter the same rodeos year in and year out during Cowboy Christmas, and Livingston is the only rodeo I’ve never won. Not only have I never won Livingston, but I’ve never even placed there. It’s a damn good one. You can’t skip it. You never know when it’s your time. Let’s just say my winless and placeless streak is still intact after this year.
I left Livingston that night and went to Billings to lay over for the night. The next day was the finals at Greeley and a potentially big day. Me and RJ split the long round, so we were tied going into the finals. RJ met me at Billings early that morning, and we struck out for Greeley in my rig. Rodeo is so different, man. I just don’t see Lebron giving Steph Curry a ride to the arena before a playoff basketball game. It’s why I love rodeo so much. The camaraderie. We listened to Cody Johnson and a few cowboy poems on the way there.
When we got to Greeley, I checked the draw. I didn’t love RJ’s calf, but I really liked mine. I was the last roper. I have a lot of confidence at Greeley. I won there in 2017 and won 3rd in 2018. I needed to be 9.0 to win it again.
I nodded my head, blew the barrier out and roped my calf in three or four swings. I was at her head way faster than I imagined and broke down to flank her, but then something happened. The next thing I knew, the calf was sledding by me. Something wasn’t right. I looked back and my rope had gotten underneath Bam’s bit, causing him to drag off. That has only happened to me once before in my whole roping career—at the 2017 NFR on Bam. What a helpless feeling. It wasn’t Bam’s fault. He was doing what he was trained to do and reacted to the mixup.
I was 20.9. No money in the average.
Luckily, the first round paid good. Me and RJ each won almost $4,000. Caleb Smidt won Greeley for the second year in a row. He’s not easy to beat and has two gold buckles for a reason. Greeley was a tough one to swallow, I’m not gonna lie. But you gotta get over it.
The next night I was up at Oakley, Utah, one of my favorite rodeos of the week. It’s an underrated rodeo as far as the payoff goes. When they drew the calves, Clint Robinson called me and said, “You’re going to win Oakley.” He’s been roping these calves for the last six weeks. He knew the good ones, and he certainly knew the bad ones. I had neither: I had one of the GREAT ones, he told me.
I was still pissed from the night before and anxious to make up for it. If Clint says I was gonna win it, I damn sure wasn’t gonna try and win second. I knew if I scored good, it’d be over. I scored great—better than I thought—and blew up on her in two swings. But then I cut her right around the eyes. I was halfway in shock. If there’s one rule in calf roping, it’s that you’re always supposed to win on good calves. ALWAYS. I couldn’t believe I let that opportunity slip away.
My good buddy Monty Lewis was up that night. He’s a winner, the 2004 world champion. He knows the game. He’s one of the savviest and most realistic guys out here rodeoing. He knew I was pissed. He knew I should’ve won on that calf. I texted Monty, Man, that’s like missing two free throws when you’re down by one with half a second left on the clock.
He texted back, We’ve all done it. Flush it. Be done with it. Be ready for the next one.
My MO is I never beat myself. Or, I should say, hardly ever. I try to be even-keeled. But that night in Oakley, I was pressing from the night before and the night before that and the day before that. It all built up. I thought, I’ve got seventy-something thousand won. Why am I pressing? The answer: I hate losing. I hate it so much.
But I’m nearly thirty years old. Surely sooner or later I’ll learn to not dwell on the previous runs. I mean, when I do good, I don’t celebrate the previous runs the next day. This rodeo is so humbling. One minute you’re on top of the world, and the next you’re low man on the totem pole.
After Livingston, Haven came up to me. He didn’t have to say anything. I could see the panic on his face when he walked up. I said, Haven, bud, if you don’t listen to anything I say the rest of my life, listen to these words: DON’T LET YOUR HIGHS GET TOO HIGH OR YOUR LOWS TOO LOW. You’ll be fine. Keep your head up and be ready for the next one.
It’s time I listen to my own advice. I’ll be ready for the next one, ol’ son.